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Paul Graham Wins Deutsche Börse Photography Prize

(Paul Graham).jpg
(Photo: Paul Graham)

Paul Graham has won the 2009 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for a shimmer of possibility (steidlMACK), his 12-part book inspired by Chekhov‘s short stories. Presented annually by The Photographers’ Gallery and sponsored by Deutsche Börse group, the prize recognizes a living photographer who has made the most significant contribution (through an exhibition or publication) to photography in Europe over the past year. Dazed & Confused co-founder Jefferson Hack presented Graham with the £30,000 (approximately $43,000) prize at a ceremony yesterday evening in London. The artists that joined Graham on the shortlist—Emily Jacir, Tod Papageorge, and Taryn Simon—each received awards of £3,000.

Graham, 52, is a British-born master at capturing quotidian America. He has described his earliest photographic forays as an adapted “amalgam of [William] Eggleston and Robert Adams…together with the classic British obsession with Social Critique” and is currently the subject of a solo exhibition on view through May 18 at the Museum of Modern Art. “a shimmer of possibility sees Paul Graham pushing the photographic medium in many ways—through his acute observation of ‘bare’ life and diagnosis of the mood of contemporary America through its smallest details,” said Photographers’ Gallery director Brett Rogers, who chaired the jury. “Few photographic projects ever reach this level of subtlety, sensitivity, and complexity.”


For Graham, the goal was “to do something looser and freer, to take pictures of people at the most ordinary, everyday moments—cutting the grass or waiting for the bus, smoking cigarettes or traveling to and from the supermarket,” he explained in an interview with Richard Woodward. “I wanted to reflect Chekhov’s openness, his simple transparency…I’m not, of course, literally illustrating Chekhov’s stories, but simply isolating a small rivulet of time. So, each of the individual books is a photographic short story, a filmic haiku. They are quite short, but complete in their own modest way.”

Previously on UnBeige:

  • And Then There Were Four: Deutsche Börse Photography Prize Shortlist
  • A Dozen Reasons to Attend Paul Graham’s Book Launch
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